Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Mystery of the Blue Sign Continues

As promised, I did some searching this weekend to try to discover why it is that pedestrian signs in much of Europe are blue, in contrast to the yellow signs found elsewhere in the world. Sadly, I have to report that while I did confirm that the current sign conventions were adopted in the late 1960s as part of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, I have yet to identify anything definitive related to the blue color choice.

That said, I am dubious of the theory that blue signs are easier to see at night. While I wasn't able to find any research that examined blue signs specifically, I did come across one study that showed yellow and white signs are more visible at night than green signs. This suggests to me that blue might not be the best choice for pedestrian safety signs, despite Vienna conventions. This is not to say European sign standards have nothing on their American counterparts. After touring Erope on a quest to learn more about innovative traffic control practices, FHWA officials recommended the US adopt Europe's practice of increasing the saturation of color on traffic signs, regardless of shade.

Interestingly, I also came across a study suggesting that sign-makers have more to worry about that just color choice. This 2001 survey of five countries in the Middle East shows that age, gender, education and income all play a role in how well drivers understand signs. Young women with low incomes and low education levels had more difficulty understanding the intent of roadway signs thant their older, richer male counterparts--though even more disturbing was the fact that just slightly over half the drivers correctly identified all signs. As motorization rates continue to increase throughout the developing world, this could have dangerous implications for roadway safety--particularly of pedestrians.

Friday, January 14, 2011

This Week on Foot

This week we're reminded why all this pedestrian safety stuff is so important by two incidents across the world from one another. First, in Canada, a Teenage pedestrian's death 'needless', while in South Africa a Pupil (7) Killed on Way to School. It's sad when a young person can't even get an education without risking their life.

Fortunately, this week is also full of news of worldwide efforts to address this issue. Oregon believes Enforcement can reduce pedestrian deaths-- but the fact that Portland begins construction on South Waterfront pedestrian bridge over I-5 can't hurt either. In New York a New Traffic Signal is Cause for Celebration, while in New Jersey a pedestrian is pleased that the New audible alert law benefits blind pedestrians.  Meanwhile, Colorado invites us to check out the new "hybrid pedestrian beacon", and in the UK Volvo's pedestrian detection system wins safety award.

With so much good stuff happening out there, it's no wonder that one Seattle pedestrian complains that Street Paint Is Really Expensive, Apparently. Why else wouldn't the city finish crosswalk markings at one of the area's most heavily used crossings?

Meanwhile, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase community voices pedestrian concerns, while here in LA Streetsblog points out a Pedestrian Friendly Ralphs Needed for Pasadena .
Perhaps better zoning regulations could encourage that Ralphs to get in line. Pasadena could look to Florida, where City of Miami Receives National APA Award for Pioneering Zoning Reform . Pennsylvannia certainly is, where York City Council, residents discuss proposed zoning revision. Let's hope they're successful in their efforts!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Signs

To end on a lighter note, I wanted to share a few pedestrian-oriented signs from Austria--but only after first posing the question: can any one explain why pedestrian crossing signs in Europe are blue instead of yellow or green? It strikes me as an odd color choice, as I can't imagine blue signs standing out very well at night.

I find this bright yellow "Children at Play" sign much more striking, especially with snow as the background. Of course, we know that while signs like these are charming to look at, they don't do much to slow traffic.
This sign, on the other hand. Well, it's pretty hard to miss...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mission Beach Walk - January 15

For those of you in the San Diego area:

WalkSanDiego Community Walks

Saturday, January 15, 2011, 8:30 a.m.

Mission Beach Walk – Meet at the North Shore Cafe, 3125 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109 (Next to the Wave House)

Join us to walk the Boardwalk and Mission Beach community and hear about the history of the development of this area by John Sprekels, the old trolley line and trivia from the past. A modest paced, three-mile walk on flat terrain.

Reservations not needed

The walks are open to everyone; they are free to WalkSanDiego members, with a suggested $5 donation for non-members. For further information, contact Dave Schumacher.

Worldwide Walking: Munich

So does Munich really deserve the moniker of most walkable in the world?

Like Vienna, Munich is rife with pedestrian zones:
Pedestrian-only plazas:
And toucan crossings:
But like I said in my last post, I'm not as impressed by the walkability of cities that developed when the only real form of transportation was walking. Not to say they aren't great--just that it's a lot harder to create a walkable city after the fact, and cities that manage to do so deserve extra credit.

So while I appreciated everything that Munich had to offer in the way of walkability, I wasn't quite ready to call it the best in the world...until I discovered this: